Texas police release footage of Sandra Bland arrest
Issued on: Modified:
Texas police on Tuesday released dashcam video of the arrest of Sandra Bland after she was stopped for a traffic violation. Bland, 28, was found dead in her jail cell in what was originally labelled a suicide, a ruling her family disputes.
Bland, who was from the Chicago area, was pulled over on July 10 in Prairie View, Texas, for failing to signal a lane change.
The 52-minute video, released by the Texas Department of Public Safety, shows officer Brian Encinia approaching the car and asking Bland for her driver's license and registration. After running a check of Bland’s driving history back at his car, the trooper returns to Bland's vehicle and proceeds to give her a written warning.
At one point the officer asks Bland if there is a problem. Bland replies that she is "irritated" about being stopped for such a minor infraction. The officer then asks her to put out her cigarette, which she refuses to do, saying that she has the right to smoke in her own vehicle.
At that point the video shows Encinia demanding that she leave the car and threatening to pull her out. "You don't have the right to do this," Bland tells him.
"Step out or I will remove you. I am giving you a lawful order," he says. "Get out of the car now!"
He then tries to remove her from the vehicle physically as Bland yells, "Don't touch me!"
A few moments later Encinia points a Taser or stun gun and shouts: “Get out of the car! I will light you up.”
"For a failure to signal!" Bland repeatedly yells, indignantly, as she exits the vehicle.
The altercation moves off screen for a time but their exchanges are clearly audible.
She is later heard telling the trooper: “I can’t wait until we go to court.”
By this time a second, female, officer has arrived on the scene. Encinia can be heard telling the female officer that Bland kicked him. Bland calls them both "A**holes".
Bland asks multiple times about why she is being arrested and for what offense before Encinia replies that she is resisting arrest.
Bland is later heard yelling, "You're about to break my wrist! Can you stop!" The female officer tells Bland to stop resisting.
She later says Encinia "knocked my head into the ground" and says she has epilepsy.
"Good," Encinia replies.
Bland was taken into custody and later charged with assaulting an officer. She was found hanging in her jail cell with a plastic trash bag around her neck three days later.
Her death was originally ruled a suicide. But her family, while acknowledging that Bland had once posted a video blog saying she was struggling with depression, has dismissed the idea that she was suicidal. Family members said she was excited about starting a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said on Monday that he would investigate her death as a homicide.
The state trooper, Encinia, has been put on desk duty for violating protocol in the arrest, officials said.
Lawmaker questions arrest
Demonstrators have protested outside the jail where Bland died and her case has been taken up by activists who say it is the latest example of racial bias and excessive force by US law enforcement.
Bland’s family has called for an independent autopsy and the US Department of Justice's involvement in a probe of her death. A memorial for Bland held at Prairie View A&M on Tuesday night was attended by about 300 people.
“I am angry because of the way she died,” Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, said at the memorial. “All I want to know is why.”
A Texas lawmaker, speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, said the video suggested Bland should never have been arrested in the first place.
Democratic state Senator Royce West vowed that there would be no coverup in the investigation, which other officials at the news conference said could take some time.
Jailhouse video released earlier by the Waller County Sheriff’s Department shows a space of about 90 minutes between the last physical check of Bland in her cell shortly after 7am and her being discovered dead at about 9am on July 13.
The jail was decertified last Thursday because of problems with staff training and observing inmates, including following state requirements for face-to-face checkups on inmates every hour, said Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Waller County Sheriff Glen Smith, who could not be reached for comment, previously told Houston’s KHOU TV that he did not think either problem played a role in Bland’s death.
A video captured by a South Carolina police cruiser’s dashboard camera in April showed a black man fleeing after what appears to be a routine traffic stop by a white officer before being shot.
Footage filmed by a bystander and released earlier showed North Charleston Patrolman Michael Slager pursuing and fatally shooting Walter Scott, 50, in the back as he fled. Slager was subsequently arrested on a murder charge and dismissed from his job.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe